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Multiple Cats, Different Eating Habits: 8 Tips on Feeding Them

One cat's a vacuum while another loves to nibble, but there are strategies to deal with it.

 |  Mar 17th 2014  |   13 Contributions


Do you have more than one cat and does each cat have different eating habits or eating needs? Sometimes it can be a challenge to get every cat the various food regime that she needs to follow. I know this from personal experience. Right now I have a cat who loves to eat a little all day long, while the rest of the cats eat fast and with gusto. Another cat has just been diagnosed with urinary crystals and may be on special food for the rest of his life. What to do? None of these solutions are always perfect, but here are a few things I've tried: 

1. Make use of rooms

This can work well if you have enough rooms and are willing to space out feedings. If one cat needs to eat differently than the rest, isolate that cat in a room for feeding. This works well for cats who eat more slowly than others, for cats who need special food, or for cats who may have more stress if eating alone.

When I feed my five cats, Norton (the youngster who eats fast and would eat everyone's food if he could) eats in the bathroom with the door closed. Rama (adult who also eats fast) eats in the bedroom with the door closed. Jamie Bluebell (fairly fast eater) eats in the breezeway with the door closed. Chester and Kieran eat in the kitchen. Kieran is a faster eater than Chester, but Kieran is more laid back than some of the other cats, and he won't go after Chester's food. Chester is very laid back and non-aggressive. He is the slowest eater, and would go after no one's food.

Street Cat by Shutterstock.com

2. Give the nibbler a space of his own

In my household, Chester is the nibbler. He loves to eat a little, stop, nap, get petted, eat some more. This can go on all day. Since I realized recently that Chester needs his own personal space, I have been making use of the personal space to feed Chester. He's probably getting more to eat in my office than if I only fed him in the house with the other cats. Chester is more secure about his food when he's in a space where he's the only cat. This has been good for him, as he needed to put on a little weight. Chester gets a lot of time in his own personal space (my office) and he also gets a lot of time in the house with the other cats. (He enjoys the other cats' company, he just prefers to eat without other cats around.) You'll have to tune to your own cat's needs or wants to figure out how to modify such a situation in your household.

Kieran is a fairly slow eater, so I separate him from the more aggressive eaters.

3. Use a cat carrier

When I've been crunched for space, or when there just isn't enough room in the house, I have used cat carriers as little places where I can feed a cat. I'll temporarily shut the door so that the cat can eat without being bothered by another cat. All cats are not the same, but in my household, I've found that the cats usually like this. Sometimes they'll curl up in the carrier and nap for a bit after eating. It seems to provide a sense of enclosure and security for some felines.

4. Stick to a schedule

Cats love routine and I've found it helps me and them keep the feeding straight. In my household, they know that they're going to get fed at about 7 a.m. and again at 5 p.m. They also know where they get fed. Rama runs to the bedroom. Jamie and Norton get a little confused if they don't get fed in their customary places. Sticking to a schedule also make it more consistent for you, too. You have enough details to keep straight.

Rama must be fed behind closed doors, so that he doesn't run around and eat everyone's food.

5. If one cat needs special food, consider feeding all the special food

This will depend upon what the special food is, whether all cats can eat it, and whether your resources allow it. For example, your vet might suggest that one of your cats needs grain-free food. You might switch all your cats to grain free food, just to keep things easy and basic. But you'll have to weigh the costs and see if it's worth it. Obviously, this doesn't always work. If your cat needs special food for a condition (kidney issues? urinary issues?) then the other cats may not benefit by eating that food.

6. Use height

You could use height to separate one eating cat from another. If you have one cat who cannot jump for some reason, you could feed another cat on a counter or higher level that you can reach easily. I've never tried this strategy in my multi-cat household, however.

7. Feed at different times

I've never tried this, and my cats are so tuned into food and their feeding times. But if cats can be trained to eat at the same time, perhaps they can be trained to eat at different times? I am curious to know if anyone has tried this.

8. Put the enthusiastic eaters all in one room

Let 'er rip! Try putting all the fast and aggressive eaters together in one room, and give the slower eaters separate space. This is kind of the reverse of what I do (I shut the more aggressive eaters in separate rooms and I let the two slowest eaters eat near each other). But this could work if you're not anal about portion control and don't mind that one cat might quickly be shoving his face into another cat's bowl. 

If you have more than one cat, how do you work around different eating styles? Share your insights!

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About Catherine Holm: Told that she is funny but doesn’t know it, accused of being an unintentional con artist by her husband, quiet, with frequent unannounced bursts into dancing liveliness, Cat Holm loves writing about, working for, and living with cats. She is the author of the cat-themed memoir Driving with Cats: Ours for a Short Time, the creator of Ann Catanzaro cat fantasy story gift books, and the author of two short story collections. She loves to dance, be outside whenever possible, read, play with cats, make music, do and teach yoga, and write. Cat lives in the woods, which she loves as much as really dark chocolate, and gets regular inspiration shots along with her double espresso shots from the city.

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